November 30, 2015 -
Valentin Domogadsky, PolitRussia -
Translated for Fort Russ by J. Arnoldski
Continued from Part 1
Sewing on the knee
The Baathists, who are today referred to as the “former officers of Saddam Hussein”, acted as a liaison between radical Islamists and Sunni tribes. From the moment of the American intervention in Iraq, Ibrahim al-Douri, the right hand of the late Iraqi “dictator”, led this category of resistance forces until his death.
During Saddam Hussein’s life, al-Douri held the post of secretary of the Baath party, and he was Hussein’s deputy in the Revolutionary Command Council, that is, he was the second man in the power hierarchy of Iraq, and the first in the party. It was Ibrahim who started the process of reviving Islam in the country in the ’90’s and conducted very delicate negotiations with the Shiite clergy and Arabian monarchs. Two decades later, this turned out to have a certain influence on the formation of the Islamic State of Iraq.
In 2006, Ibrahim al-Douri, who at the time was the most wanted functionary of the dismantled regime, created the group “Army of the Men of the Naqshbandi Order” which already by the next year united the larger forces of Iraqi nationalists, including Islamic organizations. The new Baathist stricture was called the “High Command of Jihad and Liberation.”
Ibrahim al-Douri, from the moment of the American invasion of Iraq, established relationship with the most influential groupings of the resistance movement, including radical Islamists. It was tis former deputy of Hussein who was the architect of an extremely fragile alliance between the Islamists from the Islamic State of Iraq and the tribal militias of the Sunni provinces. In general, the very fact of alliance between Baathists, Sunni tribes, and radical Islamists speaks to the organizational talents of al-Douri far more than any of his “biographers” since all of these forces had long existed in the conditions of a total war of “all against all.”
One of the unifying factors of these forces was official Baghdad’s political repression of “Baathists” and representatives of the Sunni elite. on the bases of their exclusive affiliation with the Baath party, thousands of officials, security officers, teachers, and doctors were dismissed and as a result joined the ranks of the future Islamic State. Parallel to this, representatives of Al-Sahwa were destroyed, the organization was disbanded, and many Sunni officials and sheikhs were arrested.
Thus, the catalyst behind the process of unifying three antagonists in a single Islamic structure was not the propaganda of radical Islam as some political analysts say. The true reason for the conclusion of this alliance lies on the plane of the economic and political interests of all sides.
As a result of the American intervention in Iraq, the only disadvantaged party was precisely the Arab-Sunni minority, which official Baghdad refused to include in the “government plough.” That is, after the withdrawal of American troops, the Kurds de-facto gained their autonomy with the opportunity to trade in circumvention of official Baghdad, and Baghdad itself was “occupied” by Shiites oriented towards Iran. The Sunni Arabs were deprived of many benefits and didn’t participate in any way in distribution processes.
“When comrades don’t agree”
Thus, the Islamic State, in both its original and present form, is a vivid illustration of what happens to “rats trapped in a corner.”...The whole system of the Islamic State was built on compromise which originally meant “partnership” for the sake of survival. Today, this is already for the sake of seizing the assets of competitors.
In a nutshell, we have three “factions” within the Islamic State, each one of them with their own goal. It’s not difficult to guess that the Salafis lead the idea of constructing a Caliphate. The Baathists, as one might imagine, tend to strive for returning back to the status quo or, if so desired, riding the Islamists in conquering the territories of a new state formation. Here it is worth noting that the ideology of the Baathists is based on the principles of nationalism and, accordingly, the establishment of rule over Baghdad and the Kurdish territories included in the list of mandatory procedures for state-building. The least ambitious component of the Islamic State are the Bedouin tribes of Iraq, who are completely satisfied with their current position which is expressed in control over all assets in their residential areas. As the American General MacFarland noted rightly at the time: “these clans, as a country, have no friends, only interests.”
The whole secret of the successful state-building of the Islamic State lies in the concept of “imperial expansion” as its educated is enlarged by territories based on the interests of local clans, tribes, and political or military forces. That is, the Islamic State simply gives local elites a “short cut to rule” demanding very little in return - taking the official oath, introducing a new tax system, carrying out some mobilization activities among young people, and integrating local industry into a unified system.
For the local elites who simply did not possess this in Iraq and Syria, the offer of full control over the “social sphere” and all of local business appears to be a ticket to a happy life. The Islamic State, in turn, solves the problem of control on the ground, which in its classical form is “smearing combat-ready forces” to the rear.
However, maintaining this balance between the Islamic State and local clans presents some difficulties which we mentioned not too long ago in the context of the Syrian crisis:
“The loyalty of all these little groupings and ‘regional division’ of large Islamist structures directly depends on the price offered and the situation at the front. If Islamists win, then loyalty is preserved. If they’re beat by government forces, then they’ll start to say: ‘we’re local, you forced us, we didn’t want to fight, but after all you understand.” Something similar can be observed in Donbass where, as it turns out, the most fierce fighting on the Ukrainian side was participated in by pacifists.”
And today, the future of the Islamic State is found under a big question mark which unites local successes just as government forces in Syria and Kurds (including Iraqi Kurds) who have begun to cut off the Caliphate from major transport corridors. Among other things, the unofficial ban on bombing the oil infrastructure of the Islamic State has been recently overturned, and this certainly makes the leaders of the Islamic State change their budget plan for the coming year.
However, the leadership of the Islamic State has not only been hit at transport arteries and in the oil industry. The main blow has been inflicted on the interests of local business, that is, the interests of the very elites who collaborated with the Islamists with the aim of increasing their capital. In the conditions of a reduction of “raw” resources, the attractiveness of the Islamic State in the eyes of numerous tribes and clans starts to drop to zero. The growing possibility of someone losing his life in a bombardment is also included here.
What the proponents of a complete physical extermination of everyone cooperating with the Islamists would not say is that the future of this conflict will be determined by including Sunni tribes in negotiations. Let us make a bold assumption that in the near future the local elite will be much more tractable, and will quite possibly be looking for contacts for negotiations. In this case, it is worth remembering the old and not quite politically correct formula: “An Arab cannot be bought, only rented.” It is time to change the tenant.